When I think about my trip to last week’s inauguration many words come to mind; joyful, proud, hopeful, and biggest of all would be surreal. Nothing was truer of this than on the Sunday before the swearing in ceremony. The day starts early, with me having to drag myself out of bed at 4:30 a.m. to catch my 8 a.m. flight. This was no ordinary flight. I knew that the moment I got to the gate to find I was the only female there with about twenty guys standing and sitting around waiting for the plane. I later found out that we had forty sheriff deputies on the flight to help with security detail in Washington. Surreal – I picked a random seat and ended up in a conversation with a congressman’s wife, then I look up and see another congressman at the gate, and the governor and his wife standing to get on the flight. What a flight to be on and as my dad said, “This is going to be the safest flight in the air.”
But the surreal feeling didn’t stop there that day. I flew in on the side of the plane that was facing the Lincoln Memorial. There I could see people gathering for the We are One concert. This is when it started to become real to me and yet all the more unbelievable.
That night my sister was able to get tickets to a party for the Declare Yourself organization, they help young people get involved in politics. We were treated with a great concert with local acts, John Legend, and Maroon 5 performing for us. It was fantastic! Made even more so since we were only fifteen feet from the stage. I kept thinking I would have to pay serious money to get this close to Maroon 5. Not only are we seeing these great acts but we were also not far from Jessica Alba, Jamie Foxx, and Hayden Panettiere who were all there to talk about the organization. After the concert Sam Ronson was the DJ for the party. She is most known for being the girlfriend of Lindsay Lohan, my sister and I quickly go over to get a look at her and were stunned to see Lindsay as well. I honestly can’t believe that I’m seeing someone I’ve seen on countless magazine covers. It truly was a surreal day.
The next day was the Inauguration. We got up a little before 6 a.m. to get ready and were out the door by 6:30 a.m. to catch the Metro subway. We were all nice and bundled up for the journey. I was wearing tights, long underwear, and jeans for my legs; on top I wore long underwear, my Mamas for Obama t-shirt, a cashmere turtleneck, a wool sweater, and my ski jacket. I also had on wool socks, two pairs of gloves and a hat. I can honestly say that the only part of me that got cold was my hands since I kept taking off my big gloves to take pictures. In fact standing in the Metro subway car to get there I was roasting. When we got to our stop and went to get out there was a huge mob of people trying to leave. It took us about thirty minutes to get out to the street. You would expect people yelling and being upset but instead people were smiling, singing songs, and chanting “Obama” and “Yes We Can.” We walked to our gate, the blue gate, to stand in line. We got there about fifteen minutes or so before they opened the gate. Once they opened the gate we moved quite quickly until we got across the street from the gate. From that point until we reached security took a little over two and half hours.
There was very little grumbling that I heard. We were entertained for a while by a lady that was selling hand warmers. Some person in the crowd would let her know that they wanted a warmer and the cash would pass through the crowd and then the warmers would pass the same path back. She eventually ran out of warmers. I thought about getting one but it wasn’t that bad. It was only later that the weather got colder and the wind picked up that I wished I would have bought some. My favorite part of the wait is when we would all get together and start singing songs like the Star Spangled Banner or If You’re Happy And You Know It. There were also a few episodes of the wave.
Once we got closer to the front of the line where security was, we had to go from a large mass of people to a more uniform line. As people were moving to form the line I started to move without actually moving my feet. It was like crowd surfing while standing; it was a very strange feeling. We got to security and had our bags searched, they tested my bottled water, and we had to turn on our cell phones and have them inspect it. Our section was the blue section which is the section right behind the seated section. My sister’s boyfriend and some of her friends were in the silver section and they were just patted down and got to their area about thirty minutes or so before us.
The great part of being there was being with the crowd and feeling such positive energy and excitement. We could also hear chants start from the back of the crowd and like wildfire they would spread to the front. It was great to hear the crowd’s reaction when they would introduce people. I’ve watched the ceremony on TV and much of the crowd’s reaction is missing. There was a lot of cheering and some booing and for some such as Laura Bush and Lynn Cheney there was complete silence. The biggest chorus of booing was for George W. Bush. You could actually hear the band double their volume to try and drown it out the booing from the crowd; and watching it on TV later I heard none of it. The great thing about America is people have the freedom of speech and while many booed I decided to say nothing at all.
The great moments for me came when Biden and Obama were sworn in. The time had finally come for a new attitude to enter Washington, and the moment was electrifying. I was so elated at both of the oaths, words can’t even begin to describe how I felt. I also loved Obama’s speech about it is not just government that will get us on the right track but that we all share in this fight, that we succeed together or lose alone. The two music selections were remarkably different but equally inspiring to me. I just loved Aretha’s hat and she sounded incredible. When I think of the song ‘Simple Gifts’ it reminds me of those that came before me that made this country so great, and to hear it played so beautifully made my heart burst. All in all the ceremony was great and is something I will remember for the rest of my life.
Since I’ve come back people have seemed to ask me the same question, “Would you do it over again?” I answer a resounding, “Yes!” I answer yes for so many reasons. Yes to getting to spend some time with my sister who I love so much. Yes to going to support someone that inspired me to do things like volunteer which I had never done before. Yes to being a part of history and getting to witness this occasion in person. Yes to being part of positive movement which I felt the entire time I was there. Yes to seeing the joy and pride on the faces of so many people especially the African-Americans. This was especially brought home to me after the ceremony when we swapped picture taking duties with an African-American woman there. When we went to take her picture she pulled out photos of those in her family including her deceased grandmother that couldn’t make it so that they could be in the picture with her and share in her joy. So when I’m asked that question of would you do it over again? I answer Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes; Yes I would do it again in a heartbeat.